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Genres of silence

We’ve revered silence since childhood. Grandmother’s stories praise great sages who’ve attained truth and enlightenment in the Himalayas. This meditative stillness is external to social interactions; it’s not communicative, it’s internal beliefs that concern nobody else. But in grappling with daily life activities, the rest of us not in the Himalayas have to contend with different genres of silence.

I’ve observed four kinds of silence that are eloquent: the silence of being indifferent, defensive and not wanting to commit ourselves, the silence of utter helplessness, the sudden silence of great happiness when you can’t express your appreciation, and the silence of grief.

Silence of indifference: When someone does not react on a hard topic addressed to him, he wants not to listen to facts, gets defensive using a shrill voice, or else he becomes silent. This is the silence of total indifference, the worst kind of response. The person does not care at all. He does not commit to anything, perhaps because, “What’s in it for me?” This character is very difficult to understand. In society or in business, silence as an individual’s strong weapon is almost impossible to gauge. When a boss practices the silence of indifference, the subordinates float in complete restlessness.

Sometimes a silently indifferent person controls a complex situation by making it indifferent. It’s a tactic of denying a subject, making it generic and disappear so everything goes for a toss. This silence of indifference can create cold war among different teams in an organisation.

When people are guilty of misconduct, they often use silence as their best defence. If a person starts being defensive of mistakes, becomes arrogant, then falls silent, there’s no hope of improvement. You can see he resents being corrected. Aside from instances where silence denotes agreement, silence can also stand for a variety of emotions like anger, disagreement, an attempt at self-control and fear.

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